80s-90s / K-L / Poetry Translation

Freedom – Kim Nam-ju

Freedom

Kim Nam-ju (1946-1994)

When I struggle for the people,
I am free.
When I don’t sweat and work with all my effort,
How can I say I am free?

When I fight for the people,
I am free.
When I don’t bleed and fight together,
How can I say I am free?

When I writhe for the people,
I am free.
Without sharing blood, sweat, and tears,
How can I say I am free?

1991
(Translated by Jido Ahn. September 2016)

11184-10629002

자유

김남주 (1946-1994)

만인을 위해 내가 일할 때
나는 자유이다
땀 흘려 힘껏 일하지 않고서야
나는 어찌 자유이다라고 말할 수 있으랴

만인을 위해 내가 싸울 때
나는 자유이다
피 흘려 함께 싸우지 않고서야
어찌 나는 자유이다라고 말할 수 있으랴

만인을 위해 내가 몸부림칠 때
나는 자유이다
피와 땀과 눈물을 나눠 흘리지 않고서야
어찌 나는 자유이다라고 말할 수 있으랴

I was surprised to see there is no Wikipedia page or any other English page that is dedicated to Kim Nam-ju. Kim is famous for his resistance poems, which many of them were written while he was serving in a jail for 9 years. Kim is still one of the most important literary figures in democratization of South Korea. Ahn Chihwan, a singer who is known for turning poems (especially the ones written against the dictatorship in 60s and 70s) into a song, turned Kim’s Freedom to a song. Here is a video of him performing on the stage in 2005:

 

Source of the photo: Voice of People

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